Top 10 tips when starting out in orienteering

Invaluable advice for novice orienteers

Below are our top 10 tips for novice orienteers so that (hopefully!) you won’t make the same mistakes that many other orienteers before you have made. Above all remember to pace yourself when out orienteering. It is very tempting to go ‘flat out’ in the first part of a race but don’t forget you’ve still got several checkpoints ahead of you so conserve your energy.

Get tips from the orienteering experts

There are many comprehensive guide books for starting out in orienteering which include training tips, how to prepare mentally as well as physically and race nutrition advice. As well as books, orienteering events are enjoying increasing exposure in magazines and on television and useful race tips can be gleaned from interviews with race experts.

Starting out in orienteering

Attend an orienteering training day or weekend

Many orienteering clubs hold training days or weekends to help people who are just starting out in orienteering. These events will focus on all aspects of orienteering from training and nutrition to race preparation and race strategies.

Practice your orienteering navigation

Take some time to practice map reading and navigating before entering a race. Most orienteering events use either 1:15000 or 1:10000 scale maps. These maps are very highly detailed but you should practice navigating with them prior to entering your first event. This will help you not only get used to the different scale but also the different map symbols that orienteering maps use!

Ignore other orienteering competitors

When you first start orienteering it can be very tempting to follow other competitors but this completely defeats the whole object of competing in the first place and you might end up following someone who is either lost or is in a completely different event to you. Learn to use self-confidence and follow your own route.

Relocation training

Relocation (finding out exactly where you are after getting lost) is an art in itself, and there are several methods available depending on the type of terrain you are in. The more you practice your relocation skills then the quicker they will become, increasing your chances of preventing a minor mishap from developing into a total disaster!

Train properly for orienteering

Training is the key to success when you're starting out in orienteering and the more time you dedicate to training, the higher your chances of success will be. In particular pay attention to your navigation skills as these will ultimately determine your success or failure.

Plan your orienteering race

In any orienteering event, time is given to every competitor to plan the race after all the checkpoint details have been given out. A big mistake made by many novice competitors is to rush off into the race, but it is worth spending a little extra time at this vital planning phase as it will make the race go far more smoothly for you. Listen carefully to the pre-race briefing so you don’t miss vital information on race rules, out of bounds areas (private land or farmland), water supply points and checkpoint locations then plan your race accordingly.

Nutrition for orienteers

Just as important as training for an event is eating properly. Prior to your race eat the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins in a low fat diet. During orienteering events high-energy bars and gels are ideal.

Water for orienteering

Drink plenty of water prior to a race and ensure you know the locations of water supply points. Depending on the duration of an event you can also carry a Camelbak-type hydration system allowing you to keep hydrated without having to stop.

First aid for orienteers

One of the most important aspects of first aid training for orienteering events is being able to recognize various symptoms in a fellow competitor and treat them before they become a serious concern. Prevention is always much better than cure! Basic first aid training has obvious useful benefits not just for orienteering events but for everyday occurrences whether at work or at home, so take the time and a little money to invest in a course.

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